We know how brutal the pandemic has been for tourism. It was not just during the lockdowns, when people stayed inside, but the long months after, when hotels and other venues closed. And even after places reopened, we know that the ongoing health and safety measures make it hard for people to take much-deserved holidays.
That is why the European Union wants to help. Tourism is a vital sector. We want it to recover, build resilience and become sustainable so it can survive future shocks and thrive. As part of the EU’s wider, green recovery plan, the 2020 Industrial Strategy includes measures to help tourism meet climate and sustainability goals.
At the heart of this is the EU Ecolabel for tourism accommodation. The EU is carrying out a communication campaign to promote the EU Ecolabel, raising visibility with tour operators, associations and consumers. It could give you a competitive advantage, help you stand out on booking platforms and support your recovery from the pandemic.
The EU Ecolabel is a voluntary initiative for sustainable tourism. It is a certificate that shows hotels and other tourist accommodations meet key standards of environmental excellence. It covers areas like water heating systems, air conditioning, lighting, room temperature control and renewable energy sources. The EU Ecolabel is awarded by an independent environmental verifier and recognised by the authorities and the business community.
How can EU Ecolabel help your business?
Firstly, it will boost your image and reputation. Guests will recognise that you are going further to make your accommodation sustainable. That will also improve customer loyalty and engagement with the community as you sustain the quality of the environmental attractions in your area. Climate change matters for Europeans, who are ready to change their behaviour to cut emissions.
A healthy environment is crucial for nature and rural holiday spots like mountains, forests and the countryside, which are vulnerable to climate change and other environmental issues. From remote retreats to working farms, from hiking to horse-riding, and from fishing to winemaking, visitor experiences are related to nature-based activities.
But climate change threatens these opportunities. For example, flooding is increasingly frequent: since 2000, floods in Europe have caused at least 700 deaths and at least €25 billion in insured economic losses. Floods can also mean that toxic chemicals leak into rivers and lakes, poisoning the waters – with predictable consequences for tourists hoping to go fishing, swimming, or canoeing. Heatwaves and water shortages also strike more regularly, this increases cases of water scarcity for tourism which is also exacerbated by competition with other water-intensive activities, such as farming. Forest fires are spreading, devastating land and affecting air and water quality, biodiversity, soil and landscape aesthetics, which rural tourism depends on. Finally, extreme weather like heat stress is affecting farming: for example, global warming is driving crop losses for Chablis winemakers.
A thriving environment, by contrast, is a vital tourist asset. With the EU Ecolabel, you can show you are addressing the issue.
Secondly, the EU Ecolabel will give you a competitive advantage. Sustainable practices are money savers. Optimised environmental management of your accommodation will not only cut your carbon footprint but will also your energy consumption, water consumption, use of chemicals and pesticides, household and food waste.
This is especially important now as the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a renewed interest in rural tourism: tourists are fleeing cities for weekends or longer periods to enjoy the peaceful environments that offer both physical and mental health and wellbeing benefits.
How can you save money? Take energy, for example. Inefficient installations overuse electricity, so when you replace them with energy-efficient alternatives, you cut your bills. EU Ecolabel accommodations save up to 50% more energy by using more efficient light bulbs and appliances.
Money is also saved when temperatures in common areas and rooms are regulated with automatic switch-off options. These money-saving options are easy to adopt, and they fight climate change while protecting our natural environment, like our countryside.
There may also be funds available at the national and regional level to support EU Ecolabel accommodation: check with your national and regional authorities for more information.
Part of the solution
Thirdly, the EU Ecolabel can make you part of the solution. You can play your part in helping to restore the natural environment while sustaining your local community. The climate crisis affects us all, and it affects us in different ways. The EU Ecolabel is a win-win response: a healthy environment is an essential asset for any tourist destination.
For example, fresh water is a scarce resource in rural areas, but a circular approach to water management – installing efficient taps, toilets and showers, recycling rainwater and reusing more towels – can make a big difference. For example, you can save up to half of the water use with aerators and 70% when infrared is used, all without sacrificing performance. Energy-efficient taps and showerheads can also cut energy consumption for water heating by almost 40%. Using renewable energy cuts the polluting and climate-changing effects of fossil fuels. Giving guests options for sustainable transport modes also helps fight climate change. All of these simple solutions help to reduce the frequency of floods, fires and heatwaves.
Solid waste, if poorly managed can end up in rivers, lakes and on nature trails. Plastic waste lingers for centuries: this is not just bad for the environment, but a turn-off for tourists who see areas of natural beauty polluted. The EU Ecolabel can show it is properly recycled or recovered. Sustainable approaches ensure no single-use packaging, disposable cutlery or toiletries. You can also cut harmful chemical use in cleaning products and services: this will bring health benefits and prevent toxic substances from entering the environment.
So, the EU Ecolabel is your chance to become part of a movement that keeps the countryside, forests, rivers and lakes beautiful and healthy. With this voluntary and strategic environmental scheme, you can give guests an eco-friendly and high-quality alternative to conventional hotels – while also engaging in a sustainable recovery. As travellers go green, you can lead the way in offering a sustainable hotel experience. Sign up now, to show your green credentials, save money, and be part of the solution.